Palghar (Maharashtra), March 9 (IANS) Three persons have died and 15 others were injured in a powerful blast that was followed by a blaze in a chemical factory at an industrial estate, barely 12 km from the country’s biggest nuclear project, the Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS), officials said on Friday.
The explosion reportedly took place in the Novaphene Specialities Pvt Ltd (NSPL), a chemical company, around 11.15 p.m. on Thursday, in the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corp (MIDC), Palghar Police Control official Pramod Pawar said.
The blast was so deafening that it was heard in a radius of over 10 km. Houses and buildings were shaken and glasses shattered in a vicinity of around three kilometer radius, Pawar told IANS.
Witnesses said the explosion “sounded like a huge bomb” and it happened when many were preparing to retire for the night.
Scared and shaken, many mistook it for an earthquake. Hundreds rushed out on to the streets and sat there for hours and watched huge balls of red, orange and yellow flames leaping into the sky.
The initial mega-explosion was followed by a series of around 30-40 more explosions as the fire spread to at least five other chemical factories inside the sprawling MIDC complex.
Top officials including Palghar Collector Prashant Narnaware and Superintendent of Police Manjunath Shinge rushed to the disaster spot.
Even as firemen and disaster teams battled the multiple fires, the blaze quickly spread to at least five other chemical companies in the vicinity, Shinge said.
The blaze spread to adjoining Aarti Drugs, Prachi Pharmaceuticals, Bharat Rasayan, Unimax Chemicals and Darbar Chemicals.
“During the search operations this morning, three unidentified bodies were found inside one of the factories, Arti Industries, that was destroyed in the blaze,” Shinge told the media.
“We fear there may be more casualties. Rescue and search operations are still underway. Although the fire is still blazes, it is now under control, and cooling operations have been taken up,” he added.
Narnaware said the Director of Industrial Safety and Health (DISH), Vasai, would conduct a probe the matter to ascertain the cause of the tragedy and submit a report to the police who have registered a case of accident.
The victims have been identified as Pintu K. Gautam, Janu Adaria and Alok Nath. The injured have been admitted to hospitals, Shinge said.
The cause of the blast is not clear. Preliminary investigations indicate that a boiler containing industrial solvents may have burst under high temperature or pressure.
As a precaution, the district authorities cordoned off the MIDC and shut down high voltage power supply to the 50-plus factories in the complex.